David R. Harper: Plateau

Exhibition Dates:

June 7-August 31, 2014 | Art League Gallery

Read a review of the exhibition.


David R. Harper examines the will to memorialize — to overlay meaning onto an object or image that is not inherent to that meaning. The form of Harper’s “memorials” often involve animal imagery or taxidermy. To Harper, the inclusion of the animal form in a domestic or museum setting acts as a reminder of our mastery over our animal instincts.

“My main fascination is for the ways in which people bring objects into domestic spaces in order to amplify their personal identification with them. Our relationships to our objects can ignite a new history – one that may not be inherent to it or directly relate to its initial designation. For me, the most interesting objects are the ones that have developed a subversive history. Objects that are carefully created, assembled, or positioned to inform the viewer not only of their physical appearance but how they came to be. In some way, through their evolving identity, they demonstrate a grappling with personal truths. Through this new life, formed by the subjective layering of meaning, the object starts to defy its original intent. I try to articulate that accretion of experience, that loss and those feelings of non-fulfillment with works that embody this rebellion or destabilizing of identity. For me, the most prevalent examples of this type of object would be something that infers or suggests a sense of loss or the absence of something, like a memorial.

To frame these elements, I use materials and ways of making that require physical handling. Manipulating clay, repetitiously embroidering, intricate weaving, woodworking or taxidermy. I select materials that, at first, might seem familiar but upon closer inspection, give off a sense of alienation or the uncanny. I hope that this sensitivity to materiality and elaborate craftsmanship remind the viewer that history can be tactile and felt rather than just read.

I often use the natural history museum as a reference point because it grapples with ideas that I find myself struggling with. Control of the uncontrollable, indexing your surroundings, imperfectly re-creating what was once un-touched. These eccentric fusions of nature and culture are the uneasy disguises of pathos and pride that allow us to recognize and even celebrate an “other’s” mortality while deferring our own. In my work, I am attempting to re-create moments in order to be reminded of them, knowing that the replication is the ritual.”

–David R. Harper

 Harper received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2011. His work has exhibited widely throughout Canada as well as the U.S. Recently his work has been exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON; MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA; and Doris McCarthy Gallery, Toronto, ON. His work is included in numerous collections, including the Kohler Arts Center, Kohler, WI; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON; and the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Los Angeles, CA.

Learn more about David R. Harper.

Artist accommodation provided courtesy of

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